Ho-hum. Northwestern got two scores in the final 29 ticks of
another amazing win
To hear the folks at Northwestern tell it, there's a simple
explanation for the three final-second comeback victories in the
Wildcats' last eight games. The no-huddle, spread offense
directed by senior quarterback Zak Kustok every game is so
similar to a two-minute offense that Northwestern doesn't tense
up when the clock is ticking down. The Wildcats displayed that
cool again last Saturday, when they came from behind twice in the
final 29 seconds to defeat Michigan State 27-26, in a finish that
left normally voluble coach Randy Walker groping for an
explanation. "Whatever it is," Walker said of Kustok's ability to
win under dire circumstances, "he's got it."
On consecutive weekends late last season Kustok engineered
touchdown drives in the final 1:24 to defeat Minnesota 41-35 and
Michigan 54-51. Both comebacks failed to match the stunning
victory over the Spartans. After Kustok drove the Wildcats 70
yards to take a 24-20 lead on a 10-yard scoring pass to Kunle
Patrick with 29 seconds to play, Michigan State's Herb Haygood
returned the ensuing kickoff 84 yards for a touchdown.
Northwestern started its final drive at its 13-yard line with
"When we run plays in practice, it's always faster than in a
game," Kustok said on Sunday. "We had success last year, so we
have confidence when there's little time left. I feel that I work
better in pressure situations, knowing that I have to produce."
On the previous possession Kustok had run 15 plays without using
any timeouts, completing 8 of 10 passes for 43 yards and carrying
the ball four times for 36 yards. Offensive coordinator Kevin
Wilson says 12 different plays were used on the drive. "Most
teams in two-minute offenses have four or five passes and one or
two runs," Wilson says.
The only difference between the Wildcats' regular offense and
their two-minute drill is that, in the latter, Wilson tries to
keep the formations similar. "We save four or five seconds a play
by, for instance, keeping the receivers on the same side of the
field," he says.
The first play called on the final drive was Victory Right, the
same play used to beat Minnesota a year ago. "We call it Victory
because we're optimistic," Wilson says. "Hail Mary means you're
praying for good luck." Patrick, Jon Schweighardt and Sam Simmons
lined up wide on the right side and sprinted about 50 yards
downfield. Patrick's job was to tip Kustok's pass to Simmons in
front of him, as he had done last year against the Golden Gophers
for a 45-yard touchdown, or to Schweighardt behind him, as he did
on Saturday. Schweighardt had to reach back and make a sliding
catch of the tipped ball at the Michigan State 33. The Wildcats
called time with :08 remaining. After Kustok ran three yards and
used another timeout, kicker David Wasielewski made a 47-yard
field goal for the victory.
"We practice [Victory Right] once a week, every Thursday,"
Schweighardt says. "Most of the time we complete it." There's one
difference: In practice there are no defensive backs. When
Northwestern has called Victory Right in games, Kustok is 2 for
Vols Wideout's Big Numbers
Washington's Rebirth Day
In the first quarter against LSU last Saturday night, Tennessee
freshman walk-on wideout Kelley Washington showed his raw side.
When quarterback Casey Clausen threw an off-target deep pass to
him, Washington made no effort to prevent Tigers cornerback Erin
Damond from intercepting the ball. It was the last time that
Damond got the best of Washington, who made 11 catches for 256
yards, a single-game school record, and scored a touchdown in
Tennessee's 26-18 win.
With leading receiver Donte Stallworth out until late October
with a broken wrist, Washington is the Vols' best downfield
threat, yet LSU never gave Damond any help. "We decided that as
long as they single-covered him, we'd keep riding that horse as
long as we could," offensive coordinator Randy Sanders said after
the game. "Fortunately, the horse took us to the finish line."
Coming out of Sherando High in Stephens City, Va., in 1997,
Washington signed with Division I-AA Hofstra, which was willing
to gamble on a 6'2", 170-pound quarterback. He never enrolled,
however, choosing instead to spend four years in the Florida
Marlins' minor league system. Two inches, 55 pounds and a .213
average later, Washington contacted Tennessee. After Saturday
night, the loss of Stallworth no longer seemed so devastating.
Clemson's Stirring Comeback
Dantzler Answers A Wake-up Call
Clemson's showdown with Georgia Tech was barely four minutes old,
yet Tigers coach Tommy Bowden was already challenging senior
quarterback Woody Dantzler. "His exact words were, 'Five
turnovers in two games. I can't trust you much longer if you keep
giving it up,'" Dantzler recalled after the game. One week after
his fourth-quarter fumble played a large part in Virginia's 26-24
upset of Clemson, Dantzler lost another fumble, on the Tigers'
first series. "When I get challenged, with people calling me this
or that, telling me I stink, that I can't play quarterback,
that's when I get motivated."
Duly inspired, Dantzler passed for 254 yards and two touchdowns
and ran for 164 yards and another two scores as Clemson pulled
out a 47-44 overtime victory at Bobby Dodd Stadium. Neither
Dantzler nor any of the Tigers' other seniors had ever defeated
Georgia Tech, and with four Clemson starters missing last
Saturday's game against the ninth-ranked Yellow Jackets because
of injury, the odds of reversing that trend weren't in their
favor. Sensing the Tigers' dwindling confidence the night before
the game, Dantzler and senior guard T.J. Watkins gathered the
offense in a conference room of Clemson's Atlanta hotel. "We laid
down the ground rules," said Dantzler. "We needed to match every
good play that Georgia Tech made."
In a game in which the lead changed hands nine times, the Tigers'
offense delivered. It went 3 for 3 on fourth-down conversions and
12 for 19 on third-down tries, and had scoring drives of 62, 79,
80, 80, 80 and 60 yards. Dantzler, who needs to run for only 57
yards to become the first ACC quarterback to reach 2,000 yards
rushing and 4,000 passing in his career, could make a strong case
for backup quarterback Willie Simmons's getting a game ball.
Simmons noticed in the first half that whenever Dantzler
scrambled, Georgia Tech's defensive backs edged forward, leaving
the receivers open. He told Dantzler and the wideouts about this
at halftime, and with Clemson trailing 38-34 and facing
fourth-and-13 with the clock nearing the two-minute mark, the
advice paid off. As Dantzler scrambled, cornerback Chris Young
let J.J. McKelvey get behind him, and Dantzler connected with
the junior wideout for a 63-yard touchdown.
Although Georgia Tech would force overtime with a last-minute,
20-yard field goal and would score first in OT with a 33-yard
boot, Dantzler kept his poise and capped a six-play winning drive
with an 11-yard quarterback keeper on third-and-six. "We came
here without a chance in the world," said Dantzler, whose clutch
play put him back into Heisman contention and Clemson back into
the ACC race. "People have been doubting me, calling me out all
season. But I don't think I've ever felt as great as I do right
now." --Kelley King
Roberson Shines in Defeat
Kansas State Finds a Winner
It seemed that the rout was on. Oklahoma quarterback Nate Hybl's
gutsy, 75-yard touchdown pass to Antwone Savage, thrown into the
teeth of a blitz midway through the third quarter, gave the
third-ranked Sooners a 35-14 lead over No. 11 Kansas State. Yet
in the end Oklahoma had to endure the indignity of a
self-inflicted safety and then survive the Wildcats' Hail Mary
pass attempt as time expired to escape with a 38-37 victory.
What happened? Kansas State sophomore quarterback Ell Roberson
came of age during the game. After a shaky start he wound up
rushing for 115 yards on 23 carries and passing for 257 yards,
though he connected on only 12 of his 32 passes. Here was the
book on Roberson when he came out of Lee High in Baytown, Texas,
in 1999: electrifying runner with a powerful arm. Coach Bill
Snyder envisioned him as an improved version of former Wildcats
All-America Michael Bishop. Roberson redshirted in '99 and saw
limited action last season.
After beating out junior college transfer Marc Dunn over the
summer, however, Roberson often looked overmatched in Kansas
State's season-opening 10-6 win at USC, completing 7 of 16 passes
for 26 yards. He played better in a 64-0 rout of New Mexico
State--seven completions in 10 attempts for 181 yards--but the
Aggies were so dreadful that it was hard to measure his
Last Saturday things started going badly for Roberson. On Kansas
State's second possession he changed a play at the line of
scrimmage, checking from an option to the right side to one to
the left, but senior running back Josh Scobey didn't hear him and
ran right. When Roberson looked left for Scobey, no one was
there, and Roberson was stripped of the ball. Sooners strong
safety Roy Williams returned the fumble 18 yards for a touchdown.
As the game progressed, Roberson grew accustomed to the crowd
noise at Memorial Stadium and the speed of Oklahoma's defense.
Mixing runs and passes, and showing an increased mastery of the
contents of Snyder's extraordinarily thick playbook, Roberson
engineered two 80-yard touchdown drives on successive
second-quarter possessions. After Hybl was knocked woozy on that
75-yard scoring pass in the third quarter, Roberson all but took
over the game. He answered with a 37-yard touchdown run during
which he broke five tackles. "The guys saw the fight in my eyes,"
Roberson said. "I told 'em, 'Come on. We can get this job done.'"
They nearly did. Roberson's 57-yard scoring pass to Ricky Lloyd
with 2:02 left cut the deficit to 38-35. As Snyder told the
Wildcats after the game, "We have a chance to be a very, very
good team." A celebrated sourpuss, Snyder seemed oddly buoyant in
defeat, his mood verging on the upbeat. He knows that if Kansas
State wins out, it could get another crack at the Sooners in the
Big 12 championship game.
Snyder also knows he has found a quarterback who can rally his
team. --Austin Murphy
For scores and stats, plus Ivan Maisel's weekly Heisman watch, go
YA GOTTA LOVE THIS GUY
Washington State senior tailback Dave Minnich is 27, married, the
father of two and the second-leading rusher in the Pac-10 (98.5
yards per game). Unlike most older college football stars, the
6-foot, 220-pound Minnich didn't detour through minor league
baseball. In 1992, after excelling at running back for Stonington
(Conn.) High, Minnich wasn't recruited by any Division I schools,
so he worked as a cook and a parking valet before enlisting in
the Marines in '94. He spent four years in the Corps, including a
one-month stint in Kuwait.
After being discharged in 1998, Minnich enrolled at Mount San
Jacinto Junior College in San Jacinto, Calif., and showed little
rust, rushing for 2,679 yards and 35 touchdowns in two seasons. A
year ago, despite starting only four games, Minnich led the
Cougars with 754 rushing yards. Last Saturday he ran for 121
yards and three touchdowns in Washington State's 48-21 victory at
Arizona. Minnich is a big reason why the 4-0 Cougars already have
won one more game than they did all of last season.
An NFL scout assesses North Carolina's 6'6", 285-pound junior
defensive end Julius Peppers, who has had 11 tackles for a loss,
including four sacks, and two interceptions for the 2-2 Tar
"Wow! I think he's better than Courtney Brown [the No. 1 choice
in the 2000 draft]. He's put on 20 pounds in the off-season and
is an unusually gifted athlete. He'll get nothing but better [now
that he's quit basketball to concentrate on football]. He's big,
gifted, fluid and explosive. He'll go in the first three picks."
WHAT WAS HE THINKING?
Illinois trailed Michigan 14-10 and had the ball at its 33 early
in the second quarter at the Big House last Saturday when Illini
coach Ron Turner gave quarterback Kurt Kittner the option of
going for it on fourth-and-one. Kittner was stuffed for no gain.
On the next play Michigan quarterback John Navarre threw a
33-yard touchdown pass to Ronald Bellamy, and the Wolverines went
on to win 45-20.
"Our guys came in ready to play, and they played their tails
off," Turner said. "They were fighting and competing to win this
game, and I took it away from them.... I tell our guys all the
time, 'Just do your job. Don't try to do everything.' And I
didn't do that."
HEAD TO HEAD
Texas wideout Roy Williams vs. Oklahoma cornerback Derrick Strait
Of these 2000 freshman All-Americas, Williams has received more
publicity as a sophomore because he's the go-to wideout for
quarterback Chris Simms. At 6'5", 210 pounds, Williams has the
size and 4.4 speed to develop into an NFL receiver. The Longhorns
didn't cut him loose until last Saturday, when he had 10 catches
for 98 yards in a 42-7 win over Texas Tech. Usually Williams sees
single coverage only in practice, but he might get it against the
Sooners. The 5'11", 191-pound Strait has proved he can stop big
receivers--including Williams. In Oklahoma's 63-14 victory over
the Longhorns last season, Strait helped hold Williams to four
catches for 16 yards and made 10 tackles, eight of them